The chief executives of four of the world’s largest tech companies, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google, plan to argue in a congressional hearing on antitrust on Wednesday that they face intense competition from each other and from other rivals.
The testimony from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook, which was released Tuesday, portrays four chief executives who are looking over their shoulders at competitors who could render them obsolete.
They will be presented via video conference to the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel investigating how their business practices and data gathering have hurt smaller rivals.
Bezos plans to highlight Amazon’s contribution to the economy and how it has invested $270billion in the U.S. over the last decade and created more than 700,000 ‘indirect’ jobs.
His statement emphasizes the company’s dedication to getting its products to customers – which he says are jobs that cannot be outsourced ‘to China or anywhere else’.
‘To fulfill our promises to customers in this country, we need American workers to get products to American customers. When customers shop on Amazon, they are helping to create jobs in their local communities,’ he says.
He adds that Amazon hired an additional 175,000 employees during the coronavirus pandemic, including many who were laid off from other jobs.
Bezos includes personal information about his life before becoming a billionaire and how he was raised by a teen mother and Cuban immigrant adoptive father.
‘It’s not a coincidence that Amazon was born in this country,’ he says.
‘We nurture entrepreneurs and start-ups with stable rule of law, the finest university system in the world, the freedom of democracy, and a deeply accepted culture of risk-taking.’
Zuckerberg also touched on the theme of the American success story, arguing that Facebook grew into a billion-dollar business ‘the American way, by starting out with nothing and providing products that people find valuable.
‘Although people around the world use our products, Facebook is a proudly American company. We believe in values – democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression – that the American economy was built on,’ he says.
He also argues Facebook faces intense competition from large rivals adding: ‘We compete against the companies appearing at this hearing, plus many others that sell advertising and connect people. We also compete globally, including against companies that have access to markets that we aren’t in.’
Apple’s Tim Cook will tell the committee the company ‘does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business. That is not just true for iPhone, it is true for any product category.’
He will argue the company’s ‘commissions are comparable to or lower than commissions charged by the majority of our competitors. And they are vastly lower than the 50 to 70 percent that software developers paid to distribute their work before we launched the App Store.’
The high-profile hearing was originally set for Monday but was postponed because Representative John Lewis will be lying in state until Wednesday.
The panel will question the companies as part of its sweeping probe into whether they actively work to harm and eliminate smaller rivals, while not always making the best choices for their customers.
It will be a key moment in the growing backlash against Big Tech in the United States and is likely to set up a face-off between the executives and skeptical lawmakers from both parties.
Zuckerberg will also defend Facebook’s acquisitions by saying the social-media platform helped companies like WhatsApp and Instagram grow. Both are owned by Facebook.
He plans to remind lawmakers of the competitive threat U.S. tech companies face from China, saying the Asian country is building its ‘own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries.’
The billionaire tech exec also renewed Facebook’s call for government regulation in areas such as harmful content in social media, election integrity, and privacy – areas where the company has been criticized.
In his prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing, Pichai argued that search – which Google dominates by most metrics – was broader than just typing a query into Google, and said he remained concerned about being relevant as people turn to Twitter, Pinterest or other websites for information.
‘We know Google’s continued success is not guaranteed. Google operates in highly competitive and dynamic global markets, in which prices are free or falling, and products are constantly improving,’ Pichai said.
Many tech lobbying groups and industry critics say the hearing is unlikely to address core antitrust issues or bring new information to the table, however.
‘There’s not much tech CEOs can do to appease anti-tech critics… this hearing is not about finding truth but creating news stories,’ said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at industry lobby group NetChoice.
The antitrust subcommittee is expected to release a report within weeks on their investigation into the companies.
The U.S. Justice Department is also probing the big four tech platforms. Facebook and Amazon are also facing inquiries by the Federal Trade Commission, while U.S. states attorneys general are looking at Google and Facebook.